Failed Starter-Generator Caused Reaper Crash

A starter-generator failure led to the crash of an? MQ-9A Reaper on Dec. 12, 2014, in the Central Command area of operations, according to an investigation report released June 30. The Reaper, controlled at the time by airmen operating from 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth AFB, S.D., was flying a combat support mission and had briefly lost its satellite return link when the pilot noticed the starter-generator malfunctioned and the aircraft was being powered by backup batteries, according to the report. The pilot and crew commander tried to send the Reaper to the emergency launch and recovery element; however, the aircraft did not have enough battery power to lower its landing gear. It was ditched in the mountains 67 minutes after the starter-generator failed. The wreckage was not recovered, so the exact cause of the failure is not clear, but General Atomics said the “symptoms” of the failure were “similar to other starter-generator failures preceded by erratic voltage,” states the report. In addition, a delay in uploading the applicable software version at the emergency” launch and recovery element and “not preconfiguring the landing gear for recovery prior to turning off the satellite link” contributed to the mishap, states the report. Neither the pilot nor the crew commander was negligent in the incident, the report found.